In an old Peanuts cartoon, Linus says to Charlie Brown: "I’ve got this whole Santa Claus thing licked. If there is a Santa Claus, he’s going to be too nice not to bring me anything for Christmas, no matter how I act, right? Right! And maybe Linus is right, because I’ve never heard of any kid really getting the threatened lump of coal.
However, sometimes we can think about God the way that Linus thought about Santa Claus. We know that God is love, and that he loves us regardless of what we do! But then we can conclude that because God loves us no matter what we do, we can go ahead and do whatever we want. Classically, this has been referred to as the "sin of presumption."
Jesus knows that sometimes we’re tempted to think this way; he’s well aware that sometimes we try to excuse our behavior and get morally lazy. That’s why he cautions us in today’s gospel to strive to enter God’s kingdom through the narrow door, if we wish to be saved. Salvation is our hope, and salvation is God’s free gift! But salvation is not a guarantee. As believers, this shouldn’t scare us. But it should motivate us- to repentance, to conversion, to love.
Saint Pope Leo the Great once offered some wisdom about this. "What does the Lord recommend," he says, "except that no one should presume upon his own justice and no one distrust God’s mercy."
(My book of daily meditations for Lent, to be published by Ave Maria Press in November, is available for pre-order: http://www.amazon.com/Daily-Devotions-Lent-Living-Gospel/dp/1594713634/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335995419&sr=8-1 )